As the automotive industry turns towards sustainability, the design of fasteners has never been more important. Here, Sven Brehler, director of engineering at TR Fastenings, discusses how intelligent fastener design could help to future-proof the electric vehicle sector.
By working with its customers from the beginning of the design process, TR Fastenings states this allows for optimal design of the fasteners as well as improves the overall sustainability of the vehicle. “For example, let’s assume that a vehicle has an average lifespan of 12 years, after which it will need to be taken apart so that its components can be recycled and reused. Anything that we do not get right up front, we will pay for later. It’s becoming much more important to also look at the reusability and recyclability of the products used in EVs at the early design stage,” Brehler explains.
Whereas in the past automotive manufacturers have leaned towards gluing or welding parts together to create permanent fixings, the increasing importance placed on improving the lifecycle of new vehicles means it is important that these units can eventually be taken apart. Such trends have already been set by other industries, as is demonstrated by the new legislation in Europe, ‘The Right to Repair’.
“The move towards modular design is where it gets interesting. With every new development, it opens the door for us to look at reapplying or developing new products that will ultimately improve the recyclability and sustainability of future vehicles. Embracing modular design can help to elongate the life of not only the parts themselves, but also of the entire vehicle as it allows various components to be replaced, which has often not been possible previously,” adds Brehler.
“With light weighting, we are seeing more aluminium and high tensile steels being used, which pushes the boundaries of current products,” Brehler states. “We are also seeing requirements for silver-plated and tin-plated parts for connectivity, as well as special plastic parts that work as a barrier or in closing the battery packs or cable management. The EV market is providing many more opportunities to develop new products with our customers.”
“Of course, the rapid advancement of EV technology is not without its challenges. In particular, the sector is currently lacking standardisation,” Brehler admits. “An example being EV charging plugs, the compatibility of which often varies between vehicles. With no globally agreed standard, people have little choice but to replace their charging units when they purchase a new vehicle, which is both costly and creates unnecessary waste.”
“It is not only the development of new products, but also the application of new products which is becoming very important,” Brehler says. “Being able to integrate an existing fastener that has already been tested and proven into a customer’s application is just as important as developing your own product. This is actually driving the technology forward and helping to further develop the existing products we have.” An example of this being the company’s EPW Self-Extruding Screw, which was initially developed for the goods sector. TR Fastenings Ltd developed this product further and now has potential to be used in the EV market.
“The lifespan of EVs is going to increase due to less moving parts and other factors such as autonomous driving leading to less wear and tear, which means there will be a greater focus on the coatings on fasteners within these vehicles. Corrosion will be one of the major feats we have to overcome, because you can’t take a corroded fastener out of a vehicle, which will impact the recyclability process. How will we take apart a vehicle in 30 years’ time? That’s what everyone is talking about now, and that is what will prompt global standardisation within the industry going forwards,” concludes Brehler.
Becca is the latest member to join our team and is eager to get stuck into the world of fasteners. She brings an enthusiastic and fresh outlook on what we do editorially and will be leading our social media activity – including sourcing material, editing articles and posting online.